Emotional Baggage

Only a silly lil’ twig…

I came across this post I wrote on my old blog over two years ago.  It is very interesting how there are some things that have stayed the same, but there is still a lot that has changed.  While many things have happened since then; I obviously had my second baby (and I was pregnant with him when I wrote this), I have matched to a residency specialty that I wanted, my relationship with my “role model” has evolved immensely, and I don’t feel nearly as “tied down” as I did.  However, I don’t think I am completely done with all those insecurities.  Hopefully, I will continue to make progress on this endeavor as I continue into the next chapter of my life…

As I venture farther into this busy and rather complicated life that I’ve laid out for myself, I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to remain positive, to feel confident, to feel like I deserve what I’ve accomplished, and to feel like I will ever finish what I’ve set out to do.  I might be able to blame it on third trimester trials and tribulations, such as: feeling increasingly tired and uncomfortable, spending more time relaxing and recovering from the day than actually studying or contributing to my education, or the recent lack of  “playing” my very energetic son.  But the truth is, these feelings have really been haunting the depth of my being for some time.  It just so happens that they come out and show their ugliness at my most trying of times.  I’m sure if I think back to other moments in my life where I’ve felt a little overwhelmed, the same doubts and negativity have surfaced.  Despite the appearance of all this negativity at various times throughout my life, I have made it to where I am today… I’ve accomplished everything I’ve set out to do (maybe not exactly how I planned it), the results have not been horrible or scary, and I’ve survived to tell about it…

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to reflect on what underlies these negative and deconstructing emotions that only make my life more difficult.  Why now?  Well, it is beginning to dawn on me that in a few years, I’ll be a Doctor… a professional, if you will.  Life will not get easier… it will get busier and more complicated as I move through a demanding residency program and as my children grow up and expect more from me as a role model in their lives.  I think about the people who are role models for me and I don’t ever get a sense that they doubt or lack confidence in themselves, and I’m sure if I did, they wouldn’t have ever made the cut of “role model” for me (that might sound harsh, but I think it’s true for everyone who looks up to someone else).  I don’t want this cesspool of negativity to surface and hold me back every time things get a little tough.  I want to be strong, exude confidence in all that I do, and feel that I am definitely competent and deserving in every aspect of my future.
In my efforts for self-improvement and understanding, someone lent me the book How to Be Happy, Dammit: A Cynic’s Guide to Spiritual Happiness by Karen Salmansohn.  It is a small coffee table book filled with little sayings and short stories for inspiration and to put life into a little perspective.  Not only is it a quick read, but it is certainly written from a cynical point of view, with almost no mushy/frilly/”seize the day” type of messages.  Instead, it kind of gets you thinking about the reasons why we walk around with bad emotional habits and negative attitudes. There were a few interesting little tidbits that I found as I flipped through the book, but one that really stood out for me was a short story about an elephant:



“The Elephant Truly Never Forgets”

The first trick an elephant trainer teaches an elephant is not to escape. When the elephant is still but a baby, the trainer chains the infant’s leg to a huge log, so when/if the elephant tries to escape, the log proves stronger and he gives up. Eventually the elephant becomes so used to its captivity, that even when it has grown huge and strong, all the trainer has to do is merely tie the chain around the elephant’s leg to anything—even a tiny little twig—and the elephant won’t even try to escape.
It has become a prisoner of its past.

I’m not sure why this little story stuck out amongst all the other things in the 200-odd pages in the book.  Maybe because I love elephants – they are one of my favorite animals, or maybe because it really hit home in some way.  Why do I love elephants?  Well, I think their size is amazing, the environments they live in can be hash and demanding, and they just *seem* to be so strong and wise.  More importantly, why did this story hit home?  Probably because these feelings that surface throughout life are exactly like the log/twig that the elephant gets chained to: They must have become attached to me sometime in my past, and at that time they must have been big, debilitating, and they must have held me back in some way.  But now, they are nothing, they are insignificant, and all they do is hold me back in ways that I shouldn’t allow.  They are so small and insignificant that I can’t even remember where they came from or why they exist.  I have no evidence to suggest that they belong chained to my legs, my arms, or my soul.   But there they are, holding me back at times when I need to push through – when a little extra confidence would make a huge difference.  Most of all, they dampen the positive outcomes of my efforts; because, at the end of the day, when I do make it though the tough times (like I always do), it doesn’t feel as satisfying as it should (or as it deserves to).  Rather, there is always a sense of doubt, of wrongdoing or failure in some way – like I somehow “winged it” or that a mistake was made somewhere along the line – like I didn’t actually deserve to make it through.

Interesting, the logical part of my brain says this isn’t true – probably in every instance.  After all, not everyone gets into Law School like Elle Woods… you do have to work hard and have accomplishments to make it to were you want to go.  Unfortunately, the emotional part of me has a hard time believing the logic behind this.  After reading this little story about the elephant and thinking about it for a few days, I’ve realized that I am probably sabotaging myself – I am my own elephant trainer and I am placing these stupid chains and twigs on myself.  I just have to figure out how to get rid of them, how to leave them behind and make sure they never come back.  I’m sure that is the hardest part of the whole situation because if it was easy, I wouldn’t have to think about it – it would just happen.  I think up until now I’ve been going through life dragging these “twigs” around and it’s been exhausting.  Although they haven’t been completely holding me back, they’ve certainly been making life just a little more difficult.  My task now is to find a metaphorical way of removing them and losing them – making sure they just disappear and are never seen again.  Hopefully I can accomplish this sooner than later, and when it does happen (I’ll make sure it does, one day), I will bask and revel in the wondrous feeling of true accomplishment – no strings (or twigs) attached!

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